Top 10 Essential Knitting Techniques

Every knitter should have a few tricks up their sleeve, techniques that can be life savers or help you put the finishing touches on any project. We’ve compiled a list of 10 techniques that we think are essential for knitters of any skill level, and are sure to come in handy no matter what you have in your queue!

Top 10 knitting techniques

1) Long-tail Cast On:

Though there are dozens of ways to begin your project, the long-tail cast on is a go-to for many knitters and pattern writers alike. It is versatile, flexible and neat, with the biggest perk being you get to skip row 1 and begin knitting immediately on row 2! Once you have some practice there’s a rhythm to casting on each stitch that is easy to remember, and there are also variations for creating knit and purl cast on stitches which is great for ribbing. Video here.

2) Mattress Stitch:

There are many ways to create a seam in knitting, and depending on the edges you’re looking to bind together, the technique you should use will vary. But in the case of two side seams (where the knitting runs vertical on both sides) there is nothing better than mattress stitch. It is completely invisible and sturdy, excellent for finishing off the sides of a garment or joining multiple swatches for a blanket. It’s easy to learn and all you need is a tapestry needle. Video here.

3) 1-Row Buttonhole:

If you can cast on and bind off, you can do this buttonhole! You choose the size you want to make it by binding off as many or as few stitches as you need to create a snug hole for any size button. It works in stockinette as well as it does in garter, ribbing and most other knitted fabrics. Video here.

4) M1L and M1R Increases:

Increasing stitches can be done many different ways, and while the pattern and stitches surrounding the increases will determine which method is best to use, in most cases you will find M1L and M1R is a good fit. They are perfectly mirrored and don’t leave any gaping holes in your work. Video here.

5) Stretchy Bind Off:

A tight bind off is a common problem for many knitters, as is matching your bind off to your cast on edge, especially in the case of ribbing where you’ll want the most elastic edge possible. There is a very simple way of binding off for maximum stretch, which will create a tidy, finished edge for any project. Video here.

6) Correcting dropped stitches:

Dropped stitches can happen to even the most careful knitter, which is why a crochet hook should always have a place in your knitting bag. A crochet hook is the best way to catch a stitch you’ve dropped, no matter how far down it’s run, by bringing it up one row at a time. Video here.

7) Invisible join in the round:

There is a very simple way to avoid the obvious bump that occurs when joining to knit in the round, this trick will make your first row transition into the second seamlessly! Video here.

8) Lifelines:

Even the most seasoned knitters make mistakes, and when it comes to projects with lace or complicated stitch patterns, a lifeline is the best insurance policy! This simple trick will save you from scrapping your whole project when you’ve made a mistake, you can even do it after you’ve already noticed an error and need to go back. Video here.

9) Magic-Loop:

If you learn how to do the magic loop, you can knit a project in any diameter in the round with just one extra long circular needle. From socks to sweaters, magic loop lets you knit any number of stitches in the round on the same length of cable. If you invest in a set of interchangeable circular needles, you won’t need a set of straight or DPN needles ever again! Video here.

10) i-cord:

There are many different uses for an i-cord, you can use them anywhere you need a sturdy strap, or a tidy, finished edge. They’re simple enough to make and all you need is a double pointed needles (DPNs)! Video here.

Have you mastered all of these essentials? What other technique would you add to the list?

Pfeilraupe: Double Stitch Short Rows

If you’ve been joining us on our journey through the Pfeilraupe pattern, you’ve since learned how to master the crochet cast on, the short rows, and the slots. Today we finish off this series with the short row technique used on the finishing edge. While the cast on edge uses another short row technique, the opposite edge uses double stitches, which we’ll cover today.

As soon as you’ve reached the middle point, you will turn at the tip and immediately begin this new short row technique to begin growing the triangle in the opposite direction. Up until this point, you have been turning at each short row along the cast on edge, knitting back to the end, then turning to begin the next row. You then work up to and across your short row stitch, working a few more stitches before turning again at the next short row. The number of stitches worked in each row increases as you work into your crochet cast on.

On the finishing edge, you’ll still be turning to work your short rows, but you won’t be coming across them again until you’re casting off. The number of stitches worked in each row will decrease as you complete the second half of the triangle. Ready to get to it? Here we go!

Right side: Knit until you reach your stitch marker, which indicates turning for the short row.

Pfeilraupe Double Stitch Short Rows

Turn your work. Your stitch marker is now on the right needle, and the working yarn is towards you. Insert your right hand needle into the first stitch on your left hand needle purlwise, to form an X. Lift the working yarn up and in between the two needles, on top of the X, away from you and towards the back.

Knitting Double Stitch Short Rows Technique

Keeping the yarn towards the back, remove the left hand needle from the stitch, leaving the stitch on the right needle.

Pfeilraupe Double Stitch Short Rows

Keeping the yarn to the back, you are now ready to continue knitting the row.

This “double stitch” is really just turning one stitch backwards, so that the purl bump facing you, now shifts around away from you, appearing to create two stitches, with each “leg” of the stitch now resting on the needle. The double stitches are easy to see with the color changes in the yarn used (Pittura by Louisa Harding in shade 601) so you can see each pair or “double stitch” is really a single stitch, with both “legs” now on the needle.

Pfeilraupe Double Stitch Short Rows

Knitting Double Stitch Short Rows Technique

When you are ready to cast off, and you come across these double stitches, make sure you treat them as one stitch. You will be knitting those two stitches together.

This method is great because it is a fluid motion and there is no tedious wrapping. The only down side would be doing the double stitch in stockinette, where you are doubling a knit stitch, it is not as tidy as doubling a purl stitch. Because this pattern is garter stitch, this technique works very well, as when you turn for the short row, you always have the purl side facing.

We hope you found this series useful, and hope to see lots of beautiful Pfeilraupe FOs very soon! Our shop sample will be done and up on display very soon if you’d like to come by and check it out, or get some help with the pattern in person.

Have you knit your own Pfeilraupe? Did you learn any new techniques when knitting it?

Pfeilraupe: Slots

We’re back to Pfeilraupe today, with another post to help you along with this popular pattern. Pfeilraupe has a peculiar construction, but we can all agree the beautiful design is innovative and versatile, and definitely worth a spot in your queue! In previous posts, we talked about the crochet cast on and the short rows used in this pattern, and today we’re covering the “slots” or holes that are along one side of this shawl. If you’ve worked a 2 row button hole, you’ll find that the instructions create a similar effect: stitches are cast off in between the stitch markers, the row is completed (in this case, turned according to the short rows) and worked back up to the point where the stitches have been cast off. Then, the same number of stitches are cast on, and the row is completed. The holes in this pattern are worked over 11 stitches, and repeat every few inches for a total of 6 slots. There are very detailed photo instructions linked to from this pattern, but the instructions are written up in German. Don’t panic! We’re here to help. It really is just casting off and casting on, and although you’re welcome to just keep it simple and do just that, there are a few extra steps you can do to make the slots nice and tidy. So, let’s dive in!

Pfeilraupe

Part 1: Casting off for slot

Knit until you reach the stitch marker on row 34 (see “Start Corner” chart on page 5 in pattern), you’re ready to prepare to cast off the subsequent 11 stitches. Before doing that, we will do an extra step to keep the edge tidy. With stitch marker still on the left hand needle, insert left needle into first stitch on right hand needle purlwise. Your right needle should be in front of the left needle. Wrap yarn around left needle counter-clockwise (see photo).

Pfeilraupe

Bring that wrap through the stitch, keeping the live stitch (purple) on your right needle, and the wrap (red) on your left needle.

Pfeilraupe

Move the wrap stitch from your left needle to your right. 1 stitch has been increased. The “wrap” (red) should now be the first stitch on your right needle, with the live stitch (purple) next to it. Remove stitch marker.

Pfeilraupe

Knit the next stitch. Pass the second stitch (red) on right needle over the first stitch (bring the red “wrap” stitch on right needle over the knit stitch you just worked, and off the needle). 1 stitch decreased. Note: at this point, no stitches have been cast off.

Give it a tug to tighten the wrap over the stitch. You can now begin casting off the stitches. Cast off until you reach the next stitch marker. Remove stitch marker, cast off one additional stitch (for a total of 11 stitches cast off). Finish row as in pattern, turning at the short row, and work back until you reach the cast off stitches.

Part 2: Casting on for slot

You’ve now reached the cast off stitches. Turn your work, so the front is facing you. Yarn should be at the back; you can now cast on.

Pfeilraupe

(Switch to a crochet hook for this step) Insert crochet hook into stitch below the first stitch on left hand needle, from the front. Pick up right leg of stitch by twisting hook clockwise to create a loop on the crochet hook.

Pfeilraupe

Bring yarn to front, across the top of the left needle (creating a yarn over), and draw yarn through loop on crochet hook. 1 stitch has been cast on.

Pfeilraupe

At this point it is important to replace your stitch marker in between the two stitches, as in photo. This will help you accurately count the number of stitches you cast on.

Pfeilraupe

Bring yarn behind left hand needle (make sure you don’t create a yarn over here, just bring the working yarn to the back of the work) and prepare to cast on using crochet method. Your needle will be on the left, and your crochet hook parallel to the right. Wrap yarn around front of needle and crochet hook, from left to right. Draw through loop on the crochet hook to complete cast on of one stitch. Repeat to cast on remaining stitches.

When counting cast on stitches, make sure you count from stitch marker. You will have 11 stitches on your left needle, with the remaining loop on your crochet hook. Place this loop onto your right needle. Turn your work. (The cast on stitches are now on your right needle, and the remaining loop is on your left needle)

Pfeilraupe

Bring yarn to the back. Pass the second stitch on left hand needle over the first (you will be bringing the first stitch from your cast off, over the last stitch from your cast on, and off the needle.

Pfeilraupe

Move this stitch from your left needle to the right. You are now ready to complete the row as in pattern: knit to end.

Yarn used in this sample is Pittura by Louisa Harding in colour 601, which is available in several watercolour shades!

Pfeilraupe: Short Rows

We’re back for more Pfeilraupe today, with another post in our techniques tutorial series for this pattern. This beautiful and unique shawl is a free pattern available on Ravelry, and has been translated from German, so we’ve been compiling some tips and advice to help you navigate this foreign beauty. Previously we covered the crochet cast on to get you started, and today we’re diving into short rows.

There are many different methods you can use to accomplish short rows, and as they all have the same result, the method you use will often only vary in how to handle the stitch when turning your work, and how to handle the stitch when coming across it in the next row. In this pattern, there is no wrap to be worked, and therefore no second step when handling the turning stitch on the following row. You simply knit to the designated stitch, leave your yarn at the back of the work, and turn.

Pfeilraupe Shawl Tutorial

Now the working yarn is towards you. Slip the first stitch on your left needle (the last stitch you worked before turning) to the right needle.

Pfeilraupe Short Rows Tutorial

Bring the working yarn to the back of the work, and continue knitting the row.

Knitting Pfeilraupe Pattern

Because the turning stitch will always be at the cast on edge, it is a fairly invisible transition. Without the wrap, you also don’t have any bulk in the turning stitch, so the bottom edge is very smooth and there’s no bumps where your short rows are turned.

This pattern is a great way to showcase variegated yarn; the yarn in this sample is the lovely Pittura by Louisa Harding in colour 601 which we just love!

Next time we’ll talk about working the slots, which create the holes which you can weave the long end through.

What short row method do you prefer? Have you added the Pfeilraupe to your queue yet?

Pfeilraupe: Crochet Cast On

Pfeilraupe has taken Ravelry by storm. It’s likely you’ve seen or heard of this pattern, it might also be likely you were overwhelmed when you dove into the instructions. Using uncommon construction techniques, this scarf grows asymmetrically, and finishes as a skewed triangle. The shape is unique, with holes along one side to weave the longer end through, making it quite versatile. Originally designed in German, there are now quite a few translations quickly becoming available, though the links in the pattern to photo tutorials for techniques needed are all in German. Because of it’s popularity, we’ve decided to do a few blog posts with tips and resources to help along anyone else venturing into Pfeilraupe. In this first installment, we’re going to cover the crochet cast on. So, let’s get to it!

A crochet cast on is recommended in this pattern. There are two reasons you might do a crochet cast on, one being a provisional cast on, so that you have live stitches to return to at your cast on edge; the other reason would be to have a tidy edge that compliments the project. In the case of Pfeilraupe, it’s to have a clean cast on edge (you won’t be doing this cast on provisionally). I found this video very useful when doing the crochet cast on. Though the photo tutorial linked to in the pattern might seem slightly different, the only variation is how you hold the needle and crochet hook. The result is the same, and I find the positioning of the hook and needle in the video easier to follow.

The tutorial linked in the pattern also helps with setting up the cast on. You’re welcome to use a slip knot and draw a loop through with your crochet hook (as in the video linked above), but the pattern suggests a special “knot” that gives you the cleanest start.

Pfeilraupe Crochet Cast On

Your needle will be on the left, and your crochet hook parallel to the right. Wrap yarn around front of needle and crochet hook, from left to right, and around to the back. Draw through loop on the crochet hook to complete cast on of one stitch. Repeat to cast on remaining stitches.

Knitting Crochet Cast On

Pfeilraupe Crochet Cast On

Next time we’ll be talking about the short rows used in this pattern. And, if you were admiring the yarn in this project, it’s Pittura by Louisa Harding in colour 601, isn’t it just the most lovely watercolour rainbow? It’s an extra soft Merino and Bamboo Visose blend.

Have you tried the Pfeilraupe pattern yet? If not, is it in your queue?

Beginner’s Brioche

Brioche 1

The word Brioche may get you craving the warm, fluffy, diet-crushing French bread, but today we’re referring to a considerably less guilty indulgence (which is also quite fluffy in it’s own way): the Brioche knit stitch. A textured stitch pattern that creates a voluminous fabric with a ribbed look, with just as much elasticity as a traditional 1×1 rib. Brioche may look intimidating, but it really is just a combination of stitches you likely already know well: a few yarn overs, slipped stitches, knit-two-together and you’re set! The perks of Brioche stitch? It’s reversible, it creates a thick, cushy fabric, and looks gorgeous when done with two colors, which can create beautiful color work that is almost 3D in its plushy texture.

This stitch is ideal for projects where you’ll want lots of stretchiness, such as hats or fitted garments with negative ease, or when you don’t want a “wrong side” to your project, such as in scarves or blankets. With its almost double-knit texture, this stitch also creates a dense fabric with lots of structure, which can be useful for something like the collar of a sweater. Within Brioche stitch there are also a dozen variations, including Waffle Brioche, Twisted Brioche, Moss Brioche, Honeycomb Brioche, Double Brioche and more. Most create a reversible fabric, and many can be worked with one or two colours, with some even incorporating a third colour.

Brioche 4

Fancy giving Brioche a try? After all, this kind is calorie free, what do you have to lose? Join us at the shop for a Beginner’s Brioche class on December 6th, from 3pm – 4:30pm where you’ll learn how to knit a pair of reversible fingerless mitts with two colours, just like the one’s worn by the lovely Jenny seen here! The sample was knit with the multicolour¬†Noro Kureyon and Lamb’s Pride Worsted in a solid shade.

Brioche knitting is seeing a comeback these days, thanks in part to Stephen West, who released several patterns recently all of which feature Brioche. The stitch beautifully highlights both colour and texture in his gorgeous designs, as seen in the “Bundled in Brioche” scarf where colour blocking and vertical stripes create a vibrant, plush scarf showcasing a spectrum of colours. Great for eating up leftover yarn from other projects!

Brioche 3

An important tip to remember when knitting Brioche is to use a cast-on and bind-off method that will allow for the large range of elasticity you’ll get with this stitch. In this case it is often suggested to use the Italian cast-on, or Tubular cast-on, which create a very elastic, ribbed “invisible” edge where stitches seem to wrap around the hem.

So, have you worked up an appetite for Brioche yet? What is your favourite Brioche pattern or one you’ve been hungry to try?

Easy on the Double

HatsHeldDouble

“Using smaller needles and yarn held double…”

Does the idea of knitting with two (or more) strands of yarn at the same time give you the spooks? We’re hear to tell you that, despite the day that’s in it, there’s no need to fear!

Pictured above are Nadia’s two Barley hats, a lovely Daddy and Daughter set, knit using two strands of 4ply held together. In this case Nadia had the perfect yarns in mind from her stash (Camden Tweed and Hedgehog Sock Yarn) but needed to make them work for a pattern knit at a much thicker tension. Thankfully using two strands created the perfect fabric for this design (which calls for a worsted or aran weight yarn).

But wasn’t it awkward? Did she find it hard to identify each stitch? Were there lots of snagged and dropped stitches? Actually, not at all!

HatsHeldDouble

As you can see above the two strands of yarn actually end up quite snug together, and sit quite neatly at the top of their respective columns of stitches. Each stitch is readily identifiable and, should you ever accidentally knit in to only one strand, it’s a quick thing to catch and fix.

And what about the look of the fabric? Do we get uneven stitches, a muddle of texture, gaps and lumps? Again, nope!

HatsDetail

You’d have to look very close indeed to see that two strands were used, and we’re actually quite in love with the effect of Camden Tweed held double. The resulting fabrics are plush and soft, and just perfect for keeping everyone warm this Halloween!

Embellishment

We’re thrilled to announce our next workshop, coming up next month. Elanor King will be here for the morning of Saturday 8th August, teaching us her amazing techniques for embellishing our knits.

Elanor, who is catchloops on Ravelry, is an Irish designer based in London. With an engineering background and an artist’s eye, she produces beautiful things using fun decorations like thrums and sequins and even loom bands, as well as the most effective embroidered details.

With Elanor’s help, you can learn how to add those distinctive touches that make your knits unique, and have a ball in the process! It all happens from 10.00am on Saturday August 8th, and you can nab a place right here.

And we really can’t wait to see the finished objects that happen then, can you?

Slipping stitches

“Slip a stitch” is a frequent instruction in patterns. It comes up in decreases, in some sorts of colourwork, at selvedges – all over the place, in fact. But it’s not always clear whether to slip knitwise or purlwise, and it can really make a difference.

So here’s the reason. When a stitch is sitting on your needle, it’s always at a bit of an angle. For the way most of us knit, the right hand side of the stitch is a bit closer to the tip of the needle than the left side.

But look what happens if you slip the stitch as if you were going to knit it. The needle goes into the stitch from left to right, and it starts to turn to face the knitter.

Continue to slip the stitch like this so that it moves off the left needle entirely and onto the right, and this is what you get. The stitch has turned round so that it’s facing the other way to all the rest.

This is the result that you want in an SSK decrease, for example. The stitch is turned round so that it’s not going to be twisted after the decrease is worked. There’s more about this at our directional decreases blog post.

So what happens if you slip purlwise? Well, let’s see:

The needle goes into the stitch from right to left, exactly as it does when you purl, and then when the stitch has shifted from the left needle to the right, you’ll see this:

The stitch is oriented the same way as the other stitches, with no change at all.

So when do you slip knitwise and when purlwise? There’s a handy rule of thumb: if the stitch is going to be involved in a decrease right away this moment, then slip knitwise. But the rest of the time, slip purlwise so it’s the same as all its companions, apart from not being worked. (Unless the pattern tells you otherwise, of course!)

There’s some more to say about stitch orientation and how it happens, so stay tuned!

Any size you like

The menagerie just keeps getting bigger! To the great delight of our child customers (and a lot of the adult ones too), Big Ted has recently arrived in the shop.

His two bear relations have been here for a while – they’re the teaching project for Colette’s toy-making class. So, in fact, is Big Ted. You see, this splendid trio have a message for us all: be adventurous with yarn choice!

All three bears are knitted with exactly the same pattern. The difference between them comes from using different weights of yarn, with needle size chosen to fit. The littlest Ted is made with Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace, and he comes out small enough to put in your pocket. Middle-sized Ted is more portly, made in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. And our magnificent Big Ted is made from superbulky Debbie Bliss Roma!

The easiest way of sizing a pattern up or down is to change your yarn. Have you seen a baby cardigan that you’d love to make for a toddler, but the pattern doesn’t come in larger sizes? Try a thicker yarn. Matching hats for parent and child are adorable, and two different yarns can get you there without having to change anything else.

You can swatch and do the sums to work it all out in advance if you like, but most of the time it doesn’t matter. Colette knew when she started with Big Ted that he would be Big, and that was good enough! He’s an epic bear, and along with his friends, would love you to come and visit.